We had a bit of a lay in today possibly due to the indulgences of the previous evening and our meeting with our good (but French [lol]) friend, Muriel. The meal, drinks and company had been excellent so a bit of extra sleep was partly the cure for any lingering effects of the excesses, the rest of the cure being a full English round the corner – delicious but served with Mushy Peas!
Back at our hotel they one again ordered us a Green taxi and we got moving, this time we were going to the West Lake where we got dropped off at the corner of the main road that divides the lake into two, the larger being Ho Tay and the smaller Ho Truc Bach. We first walked along the road to Trun Quoc temple which was built on a small island. Along the way we saw that the rains of the previous night had caused a lot of damage and a couple of trees and many branches had all been blown down!
Trun Quoc pagoda within its temple grounds is the oldest temple in Vietnam. The place had only just opened up when we arrived and there seemed to be a good number of visitors going in. The pagoda is very thin and made of red brick with white pottery Buddha figures on each level, which makes it look really different and in its own way very impressive. In the grounds, the shrine there was also good and surrounded by many people offering their prayers. On the part of the complex that opened out to the lake they had a good few Bonsai looking trees which had really great character – they looked like they had been growing forever. In there they had one of their mini landscapes that they make up using pottery figurines and bonsai trees. We left along the small bridge After our cultural visit to the temple we felt that it was time for a small ice cream.
From our tasty pitstop we went to Den Quan Hanh which was another smallish temple on the corner of the street. This one had a small shrine and once in there we were approached by various beggars selling things they deemed good for the soul, which we did not buy! – hope we have not been damned by our rash actions. Besides this though the whole place though had a nice vibe about it even if it was quite quiet. From there, we took in a couple of very different markets on the way back to our hotel. I originally tried to fit in another temple but we could not actually find it even with the help or not of a strange looking passerby.
The first market, a food market – Long Bien market, was one of those undercover out-of-the-way places that are authentic but unfortunately this is also a byword for them being dingy and somewhat decrepit in appearance. The market did, however sell a fine line or two in blurgh cuisine – first up was the castors (large maggots) sat in bowls next to other wrigglers and then they also sold live toads too. These were alongside the more usual everyday fare so all must be eaten at some point, on this occasion though we decided to pass.
We walked further and as mentioned my idea was to come across another temple, well more of a pagoda but we could not find it at all Bach Ma temple. A rough looking guy even tried to help us but perhaps it was the district we were in or perhaps his appearance worried me but I preferred on this occasion to tell him we did not need any help. Maybe he was genuine and, if that is the case I am honestly sorry to the man. We never did find the pagoda and if the guy was genuine then maybe it is only what we truly deserved.
The next place we did actually find on our long, long walk back to the hotel, another large market called Dong Xuan Market. This was a purpose built structure and did not sell food but probably sold any and everything else, it was just that type of place. It was all undercover and space definitely came at a premium because there was hardly space enough even to walk between the stalls! I am sure the stalls closed in on you so that you could go no further and would not let you go until money had been extracted.
The ‘short walk’ we had taken had led us all over the city and if I have not underlined it before Hanoi does motor cycle / moped transport like no other city I have ever seen, the only thing that came close was the early morning ‘bull run’ in Jakarta. In Hanoi though the mopeds, motor cycles and bikes are literally everywhere and everything is transported by such means, their goods often seemingly holding on for grim death. There is nothing like the place for simply sitting back and letting the apparent carnage – or lack of it – take place in front of your eyes, it is astounding and as we walked back to our hotel it was this which kept us entertained from as much of a distance as we could.
After a rest at the hotel, the night time saw us venture out for yet another delicious meal this time at a cafe called Blah Blah just around the corner from the hotel and to wash it down another couple of beers. At this eatery we could sit upstairs, so from this vantage point we watched the passers by dodging the rain which was falling once again in great big droplets. Vietnamese food is definitely beginning to grow on me, especially the idea that the have with providing herbs with the soups and broths to change the flavour to however you like it – simple but amazingly tasty too and probably nutritious. So ending we bid Hanoi a very goodnight.